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Hyderabad, India
Project Management and Delivery Excellence
March 24, 2010
Content Revised and Re-Orged in June/2013 (Som G)
uilding an effective Project Management and Delivery Organization is neither simple, quick, nor easy. An organization must be committed and prepared for the long haul. In my experience, if you are starting from scratch, it would take a bare minimum of six months just to get on the tarmac and pull back. Another six months of commitment on the runway to get to a take-off point. Until this time, people can still get on and off board, but once taken off, you are either onboard or off-board. Strong executive commitment is required to ensure successful takeoff.
Reaching the cruising altitudes is the most difficult part. The organization is learning the processes and methodologies, and to manage projects in a methodical, repetitive, and consistent manner. The entire organization must be strongly committed towards success. I would give at least a year to reach the cruising altitudes. By the end of the second year, it would be self-evident whether the model will work, or to what extent. I would bet my money on "to what extent" than "won't work".
There are essentially three stages in the maturity model.
  1. Support - Supplies processes, methodologies, tools, templates, and best practices to effectively run projects. One year to build and settle in.
  2. Consulting and Controlling - Provides support, PM expertise, and ensures process compliance (Governance). Second year, between take off and cruising altitudes.
  3. Project Management and Delivery Excellence - End-to-end delivery ownership, full time PMs and PM staff. May happen AFTER reaching the cruising altitudes, IF the organization determines, based on the evidence from Year 2, that the model will work for the organization's culture.
Regardless of which org structure, which methodology, which process you select for your delivery organization, Organizational Change Management is going to be your biggest challenge, by far. The change could be structural, operational, cultural, or political in nature, collectively known as "current practices" that evolved over a period of time and have perhaps been molded by some strong individuals in the organization. It is important to evaluate current practices and identify which ones do and do not pose a threat to the futrue state. It's never too early to start planning for the change.
Typically in a service-oriented business model, a delivery office starts small, with one or more projects in one or more verticals. Project Management as an art and a science for successful delivery, is often ignored. The focus is on technology SMEs (with little or no project management ability/experience) acting as pseudo project managers, supported by several "other SMEs" or analysts (at times), and many developers/coders and testers. A hotchpotch organization where everyone does everything based on their availability is considered cost-effective (which is not a bad practice for a startup, especially when the only thing that matters is the bottom line and staying afloat). However, as the organization grows and the business expands, this model soon becomes not only inefficient, but also hinders progress and building competency in any single field.
Soon, the company realizes the need for specialization, and a more efficient delivery model. With this comes the business case for an organization model that specializes in delivery, building expertise and competencies in specific domains of company's business focus.
Creating an effective delivery model is neither easy nor simple. A company has to answer several questions and create a highly customized solution for their specific needs, be it business, organizational or cultural. That doesn't mean that every company poised to implement an effective delivery structure and model has to reinvent the wheel. They would most certainly have to modify the wheel, however, to fit their specific needs. Some of the questions a company looking to transition into this delivery model must ask are,
  1. What should an effective delivery organization focus on? Is it the bottomline, strategic business, process, technology or customers? Or all of the above?
  2. How do we go about building a delivery organization? Do we take what we have and keep redefining as need be? Or should we build a framework structure? Should we operate on "let's see how it goes" model, or should we invest time, build a vision (an end state five years down the road), and model a framework based on the vision?
  3. How can we establish an organizational framework for a successful delivery organization? Do we build a mega structure (most often, this is not a good idea), or do we build an organizational framework, start out small (perhaps with one organization) and then, replicate the framework as the organization grows? Do we fill all the positions within that framework for one organization, or we build a role-based organization with shared individuals and expand personnel further as we go?
  4. Will the entire delivery organization be colocated, or will it be spread across the country, continents, or oceans? What be the roles and responsibilities of the sub-organizations within the the delivery organization that are located overseas? What roles will other organizations in the company play? Where are they located? Which org will do what and own what? How should the transition (or handoff) between the geographically disperse (sub-)organizations occur, and at what point?
  5. What will the personnel structure look like? What would be the roles and responsibilities of personnel at various levels and in various organizations? What would be the roles and responsibilities of each individual in such an organizational framework? Which roles should we fill with individuals? Which ones should (or could) we effectively combine into one individual? At what point do we individualize such combined roles?
  6. Defining a framework means nothing if it cannot be implemented successfully. And implementation of such a framework requires more than just a handful of people sitting in a conference room and brainstorming on what is should be. So... How would we go about implementing such a structure successfully? What are the typical challenges we would encounter and how can we overcome them? Will there be resistence within the organization? Will the people require training? If so, what kind of training? Are we ready for the change? How long will the change take?
  7. How can we monitor the progress and ensure that the framework works (is working) after implementing?
Answering all these questions, and many more, would result in creating of a Project Governance and Delivery Office. While answering the above questions MAY be done behind closed doors with a handful of people brainstorming, there are a couple of key considerations one must have before and during such an exercise. (1) These "handful of people" must include people from various aspects of the "current" organization, (2) At every point, for every idea, ask "Is this what we really want to do?". If no, toss the idea and move on. If yes, then ask "Will this work in this company's culture?". If yes, discuss the merrits and challenges in implementing the idea, move it to "To Do" list along with the key merrits/challenges, and move on to the next idea. If the answer is "no", then brainstorm on "How can we make it work for this culture?", (3) An external consultant, who is charged with not only guiding the "team" in coming up with the framework, but also assist in successfully implementing it. An external consultant who has no allegance to one group or the other but the company, and therefore can stay objective company politics and beyond personal career aspirations within the company.
The caveat of having such a delivery office for a small company with a handful of clients and projects is that it is a serious cost-overhead and extremely delivery-inefficient. However, not having such an office in some fashion and/or size (not necessarily in its full-blown form) for a medium to large company with more than a handful of clients and projects, has the exact same affect (serious cost-overhead and extremely delivery-inefficient).
Key Note: This group of articles is aimed at exploring each of the above questions in detail, document my thoughts and experience in the area, and provide some insights as I have seen in various companies and organizations.